Douglas attended the Sacred Heart
Convent School in Roehampton,
• Douglas found a new
sense of security,
stability and belonging
in the convent school.
• Scared Heart
introduced Douglas to
a richly constructed
Douglas was interested in social
policy and wanted to study
sociology but ultimately focused on
politics, philosophy, and economics
at Oxford University.
After graduating from university in
1943, Douglas volunteered in the
British Colonial Service where she
began to meet anthropologists.
She studied under
who was her
and role model.
In 1949, Douglas began her fieldwork in
the Belgian Congo and studied the tribe
the Lele of the Kasai.
In 1951, Mary married James Douglas
• For the next several years, Douglas focused
on caring for her family.
• She had one daughter, Janet, born in 1951.
• And two sons, James, born in 1954 and
Philip, born in 1956.
In 1966, after taking a break
to care for her family,
Douglas published her most
famous piece of work Purity
and Danger: An analysis of
concepts of pollution and
dirt, holiness, impurity
and hygiene. She dealt
with the ways in which
the human body is used
as a social and religious
Douglas’s next major book
was Natural Symbols:
Explorations in Cosmology
published in 1970.
Douglas proposed a new methodology
for comparative anthropology known as
the grid-and-group analysis.
In 1978, Douglas published The World
of Goods with Baron Isherwood which
was her collaborative research on
In 1982, Douglas co-authored the book
Risk and Culture with Aaron Wildavsky.
In 1986, Douglas published How
Institutions Think which was an
analysis of social accountability in
The last book that Douglas wrote was
Thinking in Circles: An Essay on Ring
Composition published in 2007.
On May 8, 2007, Douglas was made a
dame commander of the British Empire. On
May 16, 2007, Dame Mary Douglas died in
London of complications of cancer.